WASHINGTON, Sept 23 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa is on a mission to convince lawmakers, lobbyists
and think tanks in the U.S. capital that his initiative to
finance a new public transit project can reach beyond the City
of Angels and become the blueprint for an infrastructure bank.
"I'm banging on the door," he told Reuters on Thursday
after attending a conference between U.S. mayors and members of
President Barack Obama's administration. Villaraigosa then
headed to the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think
tank, to tout his initiative.
The mayor will be back in Washington next week to continue
the sales pitch he started this spring for a concept called
L.A. citizens voted to raise the city's sales tax to fund
public transportation expansion, including a subway extension.
By trying to squeeze the 30-year project into a decade, the
city can take advantage of currently low construction costs and
avoid having to pay high compound interest, Villaraigosa has
told hearings on Capitol Hill. In order to do that, however,
the city is seeking federal help.
President Obama recently revived the idea of a national
infrastructure bank that he first presented on the campaign
trail. The bank would to create jobs, help a flagging economic
recovery and repair the country's degraded infrastructure.
The Senate is currently considering Obama's proposal to
create a bank with initial capital of $25 billion that would
finance the highest-priority transportation and infrastructure
projects through grants and loans.
For the last two years lawmakers have not been able to
agree on basic ideas about the bank, debating everything from
how it should operate to which projects would fall into the
area of "infrastructure."
With historic federal deficits and little appetite in
Congress to increase government spending, the government must
reach for "creative, innovative financing mechanisms,"
His initiative could be used as a template for local
governments to commit a certain portion of funds up front that
are complemented by federal money. Cities could pay 70 percent
and have the government contribute 30 percent, or the split
could be closer to 90 percent and 10 percent, Villaraigosa
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert)